4

votes

Conventional wisdom says to eat a diet with a lot of variety--does this hold true for Paleo?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 20, 2011 at 2:27 AM

What are your thoughts on the advantages or disadvantages of very little food variety? What would be the problem of limiting the variety of paleo foods to just a few things seasonally? Could this possibly help with any issues such as weight loss, hormonal normalization, satiety, binge eating, gut health and/or food allergies? Does anyone subscribe to the motto of "keep it simple" and just eat eggs, spinach and coconut for example? Meat only? GF rib-eyes and butter only?

I am really interested in hearing from others who (for whatever reason) limit the variety of paleo foods to just a few items, what their staples are and any benefits or harmful effects from eating a limited diet.

Fe33d1321dad116f6fedd60266d0498b

on January 25, 2011
at 01:12 AM

Ah, no, I didn't mean to ascribe conservation to anyone; I'll agree that's pretty patently false. Rather that game movements may be seasonal, and furthermore that as you hunt one game animal to lower population levels, it may become easier (either for a time or permanently) to hunt other game animals.

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on January 23, 2011
at 01:36 AM

No fish? I've been working on incorporating more and more fish (nearly daily) for the nutritional benefits.

0d2dec01a5ed9363a9915e111ae13f7e

(4583)

on January 20, 2011
at 03:14 PM

It is a modern thought process that ascribes conservation to native groups. At first European contact with N. American Natives it was observed that many large game animals were hunted relentlessly and with no regard to the game species' ability to replenish. Lewis and Clark's journals are only one history of this phenomenon. When in the vicinity of an active group, they found elk, moose and bear to be in very small supply.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on January 20, 2011
at 03:09 PM

A good point then! Don't mind me :)

D30ff86ad2c1f3b43b99aed213bcf461

on January 20, 2011
at 12:42 PM

I wasn't trying to imply that the Inuit eat precisely the same varied diet including vegetation) every day; in fact I'm sure that some parts of the year for each group of people within the descriptor Inuit the diet is quite homogeneous and animal-based. My point in mentioning them is that neither should their diets be oversimplified when discussing variety (or lack thereof) when discussing modern traditional diets.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on January 20, 2011
at 10:34 AM

"The Inuit" covers a huge swath of people, some of whom really don't have access to appreciable plant food during the winter. Others did. Seriously where do these proclamations come from? It's nonsensical. The Inuit ranged broadly enough to generate something like ten different languages across the arctic but they all ate exactly the same balance of plants and animals?

D67e7b481854b02110d5a5b21d6789b1

(4111)

on January 20, 2011
at 03:17 AM

Thx for that link:)

D67e7b481854b02110d5a5b21d6789b1

(4111)

on January 20, 2011
at 03:16 AM

Interesting point Travis. Do you mean one can be nutritionally complete if you only eat home grown spinach and pastured eggs?

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5 Answers

1
Fe33d1321dad116f6fedd60266d0498b

on January 20, 2011
at 05:06 AM

I think a varied diet is excellent. Thinking paleolithically, it's extremely unlikely that societies - when not confined to say, an island- had to maximize the resources available to them. That is- they didn't go out everyday and get a leg-o-venison from the local herd- they'd also throw in smaller/other things, varying with the seasons. (Say, when they were getting to the end of a deer, they might make a deer-and-rabbit stew, if the deer lasted that long.)

That, and if a group of people was nomadic- which from what I understand is likely, even if it was "only" a seasonal thing (summer hunting grounds vs winter, for instance), different food would be available at each location- and even the "same" food- let's say apples- may have a slightly different nutrient balance due to location factors, like rainfall, soil type, etc.

However, I'd also take into account the issues of modern life before believing that you have to/should/whatever eat a varied diet, whatever that may mean. Perhaps you have a food allergy/intolerance (or lots of them), or even something as simple as there being no good spinach-grower near you, or you may even be recovering from an eating disorder. Take those sorts of personal environment factors into account, do what feels best and works for you, and rock on. It varies so much from person to person- I don't think I'd feel comfortable saying "yes, you can limit yourself to X, Y, and Z and that will BE AWESOME."

(and as an aside- I personally think that when transitioning to another way of eating for health reasons (not just weight loss) that an elimination diet, to whatever extent you're comfortable with, is the way to go, and gradually add in things as you sort out what works. Scientific method, n=1, etc etc.)

0d2dec01a5ed9363a9915e111ae13f7e

(4583)

on January 20, 2011
at 03:14 PM

It is a modern thought process that ascribes conservation to native groups. At first European contact with N. American Natives it was observed that many large game animals were hunted relentlessly and with no regard to the game species' ability to replenish. Lewis and Clark's journals are only one history of this phenomenon. When in the vicinity of an active group, they found elk, moose and bear to be in very small supply.

Fe33d1321dad116f6fedd60266d0498b

on January 25, 2011
at 01:12 AM

Ah, no, I didn't mean to ascribe conservation to anyone; I'll agree that's pretty patently false. Rather that game movements may be seasonal, and furthermore that as you hunt one game animal to lower population levels, it may become easier (either for a time or permanently) to hunt other game animals.

1
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on January 20, 2011
at 04:36 AM

Conventional wisdom came about when industrialized society realized that goods like citrus could cure illnesses like scurvy. They rationalized that the best way to get all needed nutrients would be eat a varied diet. And to some extent I agree, assuming that one eats a varied diet of healthy foods. However, pitfalls abound. For instance, I just heard the checkout clerk at my healthfood store talking about how she planned to eat a healthy varied diet including tofu prepared with vegetable oil and seasonings for dinner. Oops!

I think, however, that it is very possible to eat a limited diet that is still totally as healthy as a varied diet, if not more so. The trick would be to completely understand nutrition and what a person's body needs ideally to survive (or to be smart and also get kinda lucky and hit on it with less information). And we would probably also have to know about individual epigenetics. I think over time, we will reach that point where we can say that spinach is good for one guy, but this other guy better eat collards instead, or whatever. And that each of us would not really need to eat a super varied diet as long as we knew what was good for us and ate those things. But I don't think, as a society, we are there yet.

On the flip side, those with severe allergy and gut problems may do better on very simple diets simply because what is good for a sick person is often not the same as what is best for healthy person. When sick, the priority is often to heal the illness asap before worrying about long term slowly progressing nutritional issues. So like many things, the answer to this question also depends on the situation of each individual.

1
C2502365891cbcc8af2d1cf1d7b0e9fc

(2437)

on January 20, 2011
at 04:12 AM

I'm not convinced paleolithic people ate such a great variety. Eating a new, unknown food would have been very risky. I also think that cooking is an art that developed to make the unpalatable less so. I eat eggs every morning, steak every night, and food is becoming something I do for fuel only. For the first time in my life, having been on paleo for three months, I'm eating to live, rather than living to eat.

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on January 23, 2011
at 01:36 AM

No fish? I've been working on incorporating more and more fish (nearly daily) for the nutritional benefits.

1
Medium avatar

on January 20, 2011
at 02:50 AM

I read somewhere that the !Kung eat 100-something species of plants and 200-something species of animals. This would of course include insects etc.

One thing to consider though is that instead of eating 100 types of plants, you could eat spinach and save a huge amount of time. Similarly, if you eat pastured eggs and meat and good quality fish and fowl, the nutrient equivalency makes the consumption of lizards and grubs unnecessary from a health point of view.

D67e7b481854b02110d5a5b21d6789b1

(4111)

on January 20, 2011
at 03:16 AM

Interesting point Travis. Do you mean one can be nutritionally complete if you only eat home grown spinach and pastured eggs?

1
D30ff86ad2c1f3b43b99aed213bcf461

on January 20, 2011
at 02:47 AM

Traditional cultures that we can observe today still exhibit good health even with a limited range of available plant and animal foods. NO, the Inuit don't eat only blubber - they have some selection of local vegetation that also bolsters their diet. The Kitavans function well on a variety starchy tubers, with a modest addition of fish and occasionally: pork. In other words, as long as you have complete animal protein sources, it would seem that other plant additions are gravy, and you do not really need a huge variety (or at least as huge as conventional wisdom dictates) to achieve very good health.

There is probably something to be said, however, for diversifying the colors of whatever vegetation is available/consumed as the differing colors are indicative of different phytonutrients and might offer coverage against vitamin/mineral deficiencies.

I think the main reason to prescribe/endorse variety in the context of paleo is for folks (especially those starting out) who might feel bored. Beginners may perceive paleo as being only eggs, beef, salads, etc. - so the variety laid out in Robb Wolf's Paleo Solution Food Matrix combats those misconceptions.

D30ff86ad2c1f3b43b99aed213bcf461

on January 20, 2011
at 12:42 PM

I wasn't trying to imply that the Inuit eat precisely the same varied diet including vegetation) every day; in fact I'm sure that some parts of the year for each group of people within the descriptor Inuit the diet is quite homogeneous and animal-based. My point in mentioning them is that neither should their diets be oversimplified when discussing variety (or lack thereof) when discussing modern traditional diets.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on January 20, 2011
at 03:09 PM

A good point then! Don't mind me :)

D67e7b481854b02110d5a5b21d6789b1

(4111)

on January 20, 2011
at 03:17 AM

Thx for that link:)

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on January 20, 2011
at 10:34 AM

"The Inuit" covers a huge swath of people, some of whom really don't have access to appreciable plant food during the winter. Others did. Seriously where do these proclamations come from? It's nonsensical. The Inuit ranged broadly enough to generate something like ten different languages across the arctic but they all ate exactly the same balance of plants and animals?

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